Category: Reviews

Albums That Were Worth the Listen – 2017

1. ROZE AZURA NJANO – CunninLynguists

Cunninlynguists return with a full fledged LP that is both insightful and timely. The album is a celebration of black music. Boasting powerful production with its artsy, jazzy, and smooth sound. It’s reminiscent of the days of J Dilla and A Tribe Called Quest.

I’m not going to act like this album didn’t go over my head a few times but that’s okay. This album takes repeated listens and even then it’s still pretty abstract.

From HipHopDX:

“The album, originally entitled Chromesthesia, is about the title character, Rose Azura Njano, and her journey to find herself and figure out her own story — which leads her to an interesting discovery by the album’s last track,” Kno told HipHopDX. “Her name represents the three physical primary colors and we thought it would be interesting if the path of someone who could ‘hear colors’ was used as a personification of black music’s roots in American upheaval.”

Here is what I can gather:

Riot! deals with police brutality – a subject talked about on albums a lot this year. Riot speaks on the  police as an oppressive force in the projects, painting a picture of the police state going on in many hoods in America today. A clever line about black females being lionesses/ not being less. The correlations between the police department and the Klan in the south. Systematic oppression. There’s a lot going on here. The color Red is introduced.


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Red Bird is a bit more abstract. Literary  allusions to Romeo and Juliet and Edgar Allen Poe. I think the allegory here is that Rose is like a caged bird looking for freedom from the hood.

Violet – The color purple is introduced. The color purple. Get it? This song directly takes aim at Trump. Themes of the alienation of America. Meritocracy. Survivor’s guilt. There’s a really good metaphor about America’s Appetite for Destruction based on the biblical story of Adam and Eve.

Gone – This song is essentially about Gentrification. And yet it feels like it’s about so much more. This song challenges facets of late capitalism. Stating the irony of how corporate America will demonize the hood, then sell back the images to middle America who will then eat it up.


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Jimi and Andre – Referencing Jimi hendrix and filled with biblical images I’m not sure what to make of it. It’s poetic. It’s filled with plays on the color purple to reference black artists (i.e. Prince’s Purple Rain). Purple is also used to as a literary device for royalty. Purple = Black Royalty.

No Universe Without Harmony – Okay, this is probably the most straightforward track. My third eye is now open. The group talks about manifesting vibrations. Good wordplay.

It is my pick for Album of the Year (AOTY). Powerful literary imagery. Great metaphors. Heady and necessary.

Stand-out tracks: Red, White, & Blues; Violet, No Universe Without Harmony, Gone

2. NO DOPE ON SUNDAYS – CyHi The Prynce

CyHi takes us to church. After the release of the Black Hystori project many people anticipated what CyHi would do next. CyHi does not disappoint. Starting off with the banger Amen!, CyHi takes us back to the block preaching the street gospel.

I wasn’t sure what I would think of this gimmick, especially after Jeezy did it with lackluster results but CyHi’s faith and duality of street banging and faith in God seem genuine.

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CyHi’s delivery on the album takes on a spoken-word esque flow at times. As a lyricist, CyHi is no slouch. This is street poetry. Many bars have CyHi recalling growing up in the hood and selling bricks.

Great bars are peppered through the album. Here is one example:

"I been stabbed in the back more times than Paul Pierce"
  • Nu-Afrika is Black Hystori CyHi. This is going to be a lot of fans’ favorite. They way he flows here is effortless. He flips the concept of being told to go to Africa and basically asks what if America’s black icons left to re-build Africa since America steals from black culture and doesn’t get the credit.
  • Don’t Know Why has CyHi doing a more poetic verse to then transitioning to rapping to a trap-style beat with Jagged Edge doing the chorus.
  • Dat Side sounds like a sequel to That Part, including a feature from Kanye. CyHi rides trap beats really well.

As CyHi recalls the life lessons he learned, the listener gets to learn his morals and code of ethics. This album will appease casual fans with its trap beats and modern production, in addition to appealing to fans of lyrics.

Stand-out tracks: Nu-Afrika, Amen!; No Dope on Sundays,

3. All AMERIKKKAN BADA$$ – Joey Bada$$

Okay. I’ll admit it. I slept on Joey Bada$$ and missed the whole Pro-era run. So I had to go back and listen to 1999. And well, I didn’t care too much back then but my issues with Joey have been fixed on this Lp. This has Joey all-grown up, finally finding his own sound. Some great production found on this album.

For My People features an anthem akin to Kendrick’s Alright. Great rhyme schemes with pointed criticism at the criminal justice system. If Joey continues this path, he may be considered one of the leaders of the new school.

Joey’s soulful singing on the album seems like a natural progression rather than a forced aesthetic.

Land of the Free has an old school west coast aesthetic. Joey spits game. There is a real clever line about religion being the opiate of the masses and how religion was weaponized for slavery.

Yes, Joey raps lyrical/spiritual/miracle with tongue-in-cheek poise. The album is filled with replay value. Joey Bada$$’s lyrical flourishes provide entertainment while the beats help communicate a message of Pro-blackness.

Stand-out tracks: For My People, Land of the Free, Devastated, Ring the Alarm

4. THE PROGRAM – Cam’ron

Okay, I cheated. It technically isn’t an album. But it’s importance for the culture makes it hold its own weight on this list. This project is filled with innuendo.

The Program is dark. Cam paints a picture of his early street life referencing Ma$e. The word play is classic Killa Cam. It’s Killa has Cam taking aim at his targets.


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  • Hello has a hard flow. This is what Cam sounded like in his prime. This will be sure to resonate with the streets.
  • Coleslaw has Cam taking aim at an unlikely target – Kanye West. The entire first verse has Cam question how Kanye moves; everything from being institutionalized to ranting about Jay on stage.
  • Instead of Lean being about what you think it is, Lean has Cam going off about pride.

Overall, a very solid project. It’s got me believing Cam has another classic in him. In addition to the Diplomat reunion, this has me very optimistic about future projects. This project of course is important for the culture since it re-ignited his beef with Ma$e.

Stand-out tracks: It’s Killa, Hello, D.I.A

5. 4EVA IS A MIGHTY LONG TIME – Big Krit

A double album by one of the most underrated rappers from the south that’s out now. The first side  was a lot more mainstream than I was anticipating. Some great features from Southern Legends; T.I, UGK, and CeeLo Green.

Layup features a Bone-Thugs-esque flow and harmony. Getaway reminds me of Logic on The Incredible True Story. Big Krit does a lot by combining new school and old school flows.

Keep the Devil Off is probably the most original concept on the album.

Sonically, the album is rooted in blues, soul, and jazz. Krit reminds me of kindred country cousin, Yelawolf in his storytelling abilities and southern flavor. Price of Fame has Krit open up about his struggle with depression due to his celebrity status. The album may have benefitted from some trimming but all in all a solid album.

Stand-out tracks: Keep the Devil Off, Big Bank ft T.I., Miss Georgia Fornia.

6. HEGELIAN DIALECTIC – Prodigy

Rest in peace Prodigy. This album deals with metaphysics. Prodigy was truly on another wavelength towards the end of his life.

Hegelian Dialectic according to Wikipedia :

In philosophy, dialectic or dialectical method implied a methodology used for examining and cognition of philosophical objects. Dialectical methods demands the users to examine the objects in relation to other objects and to the whole system, and examine the objects within a dynamic, evolutionary environment. Dialectical method is usually contrasted with metaphysical method, which examine the objects in a separated, isolated and static environment.

The album is features similar themes to early JediMindTricks, and Zion I or more contemporarily, the hiphop duo , OuterSpace. Production wise it definitely reminds me of early Zion I.

Prodigy caustically raps on As If calling out monotonous rappers who he believes to be ripping him off.

Mafuckin U$a is a call to arms. A good message to people who might be acting a little too woke. Prodigy suggests concrete actionable steps towards progress.

It seems that Prodigy deals with his own mortality on this album. The Good Fight  has him rapping:

"Time to go, time to go and embrace the next
Plane of existence, but I ain't finished
I serve a higher purpose, don't become nervous"

"Man life too quick
I need more time to live 'cause I ain't done yet
I'm fightin' the good fight
Rather die swingin', everybody dies
Man life too quick
We got a lot of things to do, we ain't done yet, no"

Hearing the weight of these words and what he was trying to accomplish on the album, it’s obvious hiphop lost a monumental artist. The rhymes are heartfelt and poignant. Sometimes to the point of over-simplicity. But the album is a great send-off with Prodigy coming to terms of who he really is. The album definitely gets better with repeated listens.

Stand-out tracks: Spiritual War, Mystic, Snakes, The Good Fight

7. CTRL – Sza

TDE’s songstress has come out with her debut studio album after several delays. And boy was it worth the wait. Hell hath has no wrath like a woman’s scorn. Filled with spite, CTRL is hiphop’s answer to Taylor Swift.

SZA sings with a bluster that fits the hiphop beats served up as production. The album oscillates between her being a captive to love – to her brushing her shoulders off past relationships.

CTRL has SZA belt out heart-wrenching insecurities; like her constant appeal to her boyfriend to love her booty. The song, Love Galore, has a he/she said dynamic offering Travis Scott as a male perspective of a past flame, while Doves in the Wind has Kendrick throws shade on guys’ who constantly overcompensate.

The album delivers smooth sounds for anyone wanting to have some late-night reminiscing sessions.

Stand-out tracks: Drew Barrymore, Weekend, Gina, Love Galore ft Travis Scott

8. FREUDIAN – Daniel Caesar

The debut studio album from the Toronto native. Stylistically, the album is heavy with  a gospel influence; with measured funk sprinkled through out. His vocal timbre is reminiscent of early Frank Ocean. Let us hope, he’s not as reclusive.

Caesar’s silky smooth voice serves starry eyed lovers a soundtrack.  The harmonies are lovely and complemented by the women on this album. The song writing is strong.

  • The BadBadNotGood-produced Get You is the singer’s breakout song. As he details in the song, heaven for him is in the sheets with his lady love. Caesar sings tender affable lyrics for those of us infatuated with our partners.

Stand-out tracks: Take Me Away ft Syd, Get You, Best Part, Hold Me Down

9. BIG FISH THEORY – Vince Staples

Big Fish Theory by Vince Staples is this year’s sleeper pick. Staples comes out with a unique voice utilizing Chicago and Detroit house music. Due to it’s eccentric production, this album was let off a lot of people’s lists. A lot of people may praise Danny Brown for this but I think Vince simply did it better.

Vince’s lyrical abilities remain intact. His off-the-wall concepts remain fresh in a genre that has been running out of ideas lately.

The album features Damon Albarn of the Gorillaz on the track, Love Can Be and a really underrated verse from Kendrick on Yeah Right. The song Party People is a lot of things- It’s a party song. It’s thought-provoking with references to racial profiling. It also has him talking about his own insecurities.

It seems that Vince Staples made a rave record with a social conscience. I’m unsure whether that’s completely cynical or ingenious. But for now it will stand as a testament to Staples’ talent as one of the most compelling artists in rap out right now.

Stand-out tracks: 745, Big Fish, Love Can Be, Party People, BigBak

10. THE BEAUTIFUL & DAMNED – G-Eazy

The duality concept in my opinion has been done to death in rap music but that’s not going to stop me from listening to self-proclaimed Gemini, G-eazy, with an open-mind.

G-Eazy won me over this year with his Cardi B feature. There’s a cool reference to the Noisey documentary about the Bay area on his No Limit verse.

Interestingly, he has his girlfriend Halsey on the record Him and I. A take on Bonnie and Clyde.

The self-deprecating nature of the album makes me think that sometimes G-Eazy is too forthright. Pray for Me has G-Eazy rapping his paranoia over a trap beat.

Really the production on this album carries it. But it has some of the hottest beats of the year. Hearing him rap on The Plan it seems that he’s more at ease freestyling, as he finally lets loose on a trap beat.

This is another album that could’ve benefitted by a little trimming. As far as mainstream albums, it’s not bad. In fact, I would say it’s a better version of Big Sean’s I Decided album.

Stand-out tracks: Charles Brown, The Plan, Eazy, No Limit ft Cardi B, Love is Gone

11. TRIAL BY FIRE – Yelawolf

Before Eminem’s Rick Rubin-produced disaster came an album that actually gave fans of classic rock and rap hope. Yelawolf returned with a spoken-word flow with renewed energy and something to prove.

Trial by Fire is immensely personal. Yelawolf tells the story of his youth on a song addressed to his absentee father. Ride or Die talks about the challenges faced he encounter when he was coming up and is essentially a shout-out to his family and friends who helped him along his journey.

On the album, he combines country music tropes of alcoholism, poverty, tractors and trucks with imagery borrowed from Southern Baptist churches’ evangelism (namely, the idea of purifying fire).

  • Punk is probably the most interesting eclectic combination of music on the album with features from Juicy J of Three 6 Mafia and Travis Barker. The country infused rap rock works because Yela understands hiphop fundamentals and hiphop needs snares so he has Travis accompany him on the track while country violins play in the background to make something truly unique.
  • Row your Boat touches on themes of police brutality, and the challenges southerners face going against the grain.

Stand-out tracks: Son of A Gun, Punk

12.  BLUE CHIPS 7000 – Action Bronson

Action Bronson is the modern day renaissance man. It seems like these days he’s been focused on everything but rap. After several album delays, who could blame him? Blue Chips 7000 has Bronson returning to form after mixed reception to the psychedelic influenced Mr. Wonderful album. Bronsilini is back to straight rap.

  • Wolfpack features some impressive rhyming. La Luna features Bronson freestyling over a car rental’s phone holding service.
  • Let me Breath features a Fat Boys sample.

This album is a straight up fun listen. Every beat is unique. As always, Bronson’s zany imagery is entertaining to think about.

Stand-out tracks: Let me Breathe, La Luna

Honorable Mention :

DAMN – Kendrick Lamar

Hear me out. Kendrick dropped a classic last time.  I wasn’t a huge fan of DAMN when it came out. It got better with repeated listens but it wasn’t as ambitious. I hold Kendrick to a higher standard, this didn’t cut it for me. Solid Album.

CULTURE – Migos

Migos had a great year. This is undeniable. Not a lyrical album but as Chris Rock said in an interview, this album is better than any right it has to be. T-Shirt is my jam.

WU-MASSACRE – Wu- Tang

This is probably the best Wu group project in a while.

The Spectre of Violence Around Big Pun’s Legacy

Recently, Chris Rivers, the son of Big Pun put out a song that detailed the physical abuse that both he and his mother suffered at the hands of Pun. So while Big Pun may be known as the first Latino rapper to ever go platinum solo1, he demonstrated some monstrous behavior.

What does that mean for his legacy? It is undeniable that Big Pun influenced the sound of hiphop. Some notable influences include Jedi Mind Tricks and the Army of the Pharaohs crew. Among G Rap and Big Daddy Kane, Pun was partially responsible for the multisyllabic rhymes that so many of us hiphop nerds geek out too.

But given the evidence presented, he was not a good person. His history of violence has been documented as shown in the documentary clip below.

Big Pun’s Abuse Caught On Tape

And this is why Fear of my Crown is so important. The song is pivotal to Chris Rivers’ career. He’s casting away the shadow of Big Pun, after getting rid of his former Baby Pun moniker. Rivers speaks on something that anyone who grew up in an abusive home thinks about – the day when you’re ready to square off with your pops. It’s a frightening prospect. But the reality for a whole lot of people.

Music as Therapy

Music has the power to heal. And it definitely makes sense for Rivers to deal with trauma through music as therapy. Rivers is a lyricist. Having storytelling ability is part of a lyricist’s repertoire. And it’s most effective when it’s personal. Instead of internalizing his victimization, he’s chosen to bravely speak out on it. This may help a whole generation of kids going through some tough situations. So while, many may see this as Rivers maligning his lineage, we need to think of the bigger picture.

For a lot of kids, abuse is an everyday occurrence. All types of abuse. Physical, emotional, and verbal abuse.

In truth, Big Pun had alluded to much violence in his raps. Pun had been quite paranoid and combing through his lyrics you can sense quite a bit of that paranoia. He was really about that life. This is not something to glorify. Suffering from trauma himself, he perpetuated a cycle of violence. However, that does not excuse his behavior. It also does not cancel out his talent.

Pun was a top-tier lyricist. One can appreciate his craft and still think he was a terrible person. No one’s saying to throw out your copy of Capital Punishment, but we need to accept the fact that he did not treat his family right.

Lisa Rios (Pun’s Wife and Rivers’ mom) has been vocal over the years. There have been periods where both she and her son were homeless. While that may not have been Pun’s fault directly, there may have been certain factors that contributed to that unfortunate circumstance.

In an era where our idols are torn down in the wake of scandals, we must accept that there may have been significant posturing on their end. The public image may not reflect personal life. We would do well to remember that many careers have been built on carefully crafting a persona. 90s hiphop is not excluded from this trope.

Although we cannot apply the morality of 2017, to say the 18th century, we can call out 1950s behavior in the modern era. No one should have to live under the threat of physical abuse. Ever.

We often romanticize the tortured artist with demons. But then are we complicit when their demons take over?  I’d wager no. An artist’s internal struggle is often kept in the dark. While some do mention their personal struggles – music is a product bought, sold, and paid for.

This I would say is the difference between an artist like Eminem and Big Pun. Eminem frequently mentions violence towards women, but the intended audience explicitly knows this to be his dark fantasy and not reality. The audience buys Eminem’s music to hear his fantasy. Big Pun, on the other hand, mentions intense paranoia in his music that may been very real but his music is still being sold as fantasy.

This becomes more nuanced now with Chris Rivers being an artist like his father. Rivers explicitly mentions the violence his family faced at the hands of his father. We now know the facts. We don’t know what remains fiction.

This complicates Big Pun’s legacy enormously. Big Pun, proved that latin rappers could be taken seriously in the cannon of hiphop. What remains unclear is whether or not this will change people’s perception of Pun in the long term.

Chris Rivers as the Future for Latino Rappers

While Rivers is certainly talented and gets his props as a skilled emcee, he does not have the same foothold in the culture as his dad did. His cadence and delivery often sound like Big Pun himself. That’s a catch-22.

Rivers’ sound doesn’t feel like it belongs to the modern era of hiphop but rather the late 90s. And, while it may take enormous talent to pull that flow off, it also makes Rivers sound stuck in the late 90s appealing to the older hiphop heads.

Another rapper influenced by Big Pun is Termanology who has called himself the resurrection of Pun in the verse where he came up rhyming to a Dj Premiere beat. Since then, Termanology has put in 10+ years grinding and making music with everyone from Lil Fame of M.O.P. to Q-Tip, to Slaine of La Coka Nostra.

In Conclusion

Big Pun’s influence can still be heard in music today. As we learn more about the home life of Big Pun, we see that maybe he should not be placed on a pedestal and rather looked at as a flawed human being.

The hiphop community should applaud Rivers for trying to break free from his father’s shadow. Big Pun was a volatile man. And the fact that his son has had success with his own musical career means that there is an opportunity for a larger dialogue to open up. Does glorifying gangster music may have long-term effects on people’s mental health? What should latino rappers sound like? And if rappers borrow from Pun – should they also be made to speak about his violent past as well?

1source: MTV News.

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1-800-787-3224 (TTY) or visit http://www.thehotline.org/. 

How Emcees Sound in 2018

For a genre of music so focused on words, hip-hop seems to be lacking lyricism these days, focusing more on sound. Artists are continually leaning on hip-hop tropes to pad their bars. “Fuck bitches get money” has become a shorthand criticism of the genre that isn’t too far off the mark. This barrier is partially intentional, keeping the music away from audiences who may co-opt it. However, at this point, the lack of intelligent lyrics has become frustratingly noticeable.

The problem is that the role of the MC has changed completely. Once the internet changed the way people value content, the music itself was no longer profitable. Instead, music became part of a larger product; your brand. The brand consists of many aspects, however, for the purposes of this article we’ll distill it down to three primary facets –  Persona, Image, and Sound.

PERSONA

Persona is the meat and potatoes of the brand. Your persona is essentially the amalgamation of everything that makes you unique, and thus allows people to define themselves through your brand. It’s what cements a fan’s loyalty to your brand once they’ve been taken in by your look and sound.

Understanding your Persona is key to keeping your brand holistic, as the persona informs your look and the sound of your music.

IMAGE

The image of an artist is what generates first impressions and promotes the brand. Usually, people are exposed to an artist’s sound first. 

The look of an artist has always played a role. However, that role is somewhat unique in hip-hop these days. In addition to being attractive, an artist’s look shows their commitment to a lifestyle. Large visible tattoos, obscure piercings, and hair are all styled to the point of ridiculousness are all employed to demonstrate the artist’s commitment. The look of a rapper is the next thing one usually sees when exposed to an artist. Thus, a rapper’s look is also a big part of how they cut through the clutter.

SOUND

An artist’s sound is only part of their brand. Image and persona are equally important, as these generate awareness and sell merchandise. The music is mainly an ad for the artist, and the sound is only part of the brand. Lyricism is in turn part of the sound. However, most listeners are content with a nice flow and a sick beat. This puts lyricism as but a small slice of pie an artist must concern themselves with if they want to be successful.

The sound is what hooks people; it’s what gets them to Google your name. This is where hooks and punchy lyrics become important. For an artist to gain some traction, they have to be able to cut through the clutter. The simpler, the better in most cases, which has led to hip-hop distilling itself down to a celebration of turn-up and party culture.

So lyrics have become a negligible filler. All it takes is the occasional punch line or clever imagery to keep people interested. Using these principals, I’ve created a five-step guide to becoming a successful hip-hop artist in this environment.

Step 1: Be interesting

If you look weird or have an exciting story, you can be a rapper. Up and comers such as Cardi B escaped poverty through stripping. 21 Savage has a cross tattooed on his forehead and has been part of multiple shootings. You can also take the Lil Yachty route and style your hair in such a crazy unique way people can’t help but take you seriously. Whatever it takes to show you’re committed to the lifestyle, do it.

Step 2: Create a brand

Now that you look weird and have an impressive backstory use that to build your brand. Your style will inform your sound down the line, so it’s key to define exactly who you are at this phase. What’s your goal? If it’s making a lot of money, start there. Look rich, act rich, feel rich. If it’s experiencing the highest high, then find the strongest weed you can and toke up. In many ways, you need to create a character then become them.

Step 3: Make connections

Making connections is probably the most crucial step, you can be the most committed person out there but if you don’t have an ‘in’ then you’re going to have a bad time. How easy it is to makes connections depends on how sociable you are. However, you can make up for awkwardness by being driven. Find out where the people who pull strings are and cozy up to them. Ask around. Climb ladders. Suck guys toes if you have to. Just do what you need to do to find a way “in”.

Step 4: Find producers/ your sound

This shouldn’t be too hard now that you found an ‘in’; nevertheless it is important. If you can work with producers who can provide you with sick beats for you to flow over, you’re golden. Keep your brand in mind when selecting beats. Someone like Danny Brown is going to pick very different beats from someone like Jay-Z; largely because their brands are at odds.

Step 5: Release a debut album

Now that you’ve laid down some easy going flows, it’s time to put it all together and release an album. I’d recommend having at least an EP to generate some baseline hype. However, this is optional. At this point plug the shit out of your album. Blast it on Instagram. Go on Hot Ones.  Make appearances. Use the album as an excuse to get seen an promote your brand.

*note: none of those steps involves learning to rap

Now that you’re a part of the machine, just ride out your success. Keep the wheel turning; more albums means more promotions means more sales means more money. Just remember not to betray your brand, or you may compromise your core fans. Stay true to the brand and have fun being rich. You are welcome.

Rich Chigga – Successful International Star?

Rich Chigga Article

Source: Google Images

By Tyler McLaurin

With the internet widening the focus of our media, we’re beginning to see artists from all over the world blow up. We live in a world of physical proximity but also mental proximity or proximity based on interest. No one embodies the potential for this success better than Brian Imanuel, also known as rapper Rich Chigga.

Rich Chigga created a lot of buzz in the past year with his viral single “Dat $tick”. The formula for success in the viral market is apparent. Take a verse typical of the many trap artists seen in the mainstream, and put it in the mouth of a fanny pack wearing, deep voiced, Asian kid. The result is equal parts hilarious and dope. The secret being Rich Chigga’s surprisingly competent flow and delivery. The lyrics are vicious, the beat rattles – the song is an outright banger.

Dat $tick propelled Rich Chigga into a new level of success, one that is only possible with the internet age. Within a few months of the song dropping, 88rising (more of them later) released a video titled “Rappers React to Rich Chigga ft. Ghostface Killah, Desiigner, Tory Lanez & More”. This video contributed to the narrative that Rich Chigga is an up and coming talent, and lent credibility to Dat Stick. In the video, Ghostface Killah said he’d be down to get on the remix, and lo and behold, a few months later he did! Within a year, Brian Imanuel went from a comedian with a satirical trap song to a legitimate rapper featuring alongside some of the most successful and respected artists in the game.

Despite his appearance and proficient English, Brian is actually from Jakarta, the capital and economic center of Indonesia. Learning English through the internet, Brian started his online career as a comedian; however, he received little exposure outside of Indonesia. In an interview with Genius, Brian explains that Dat $tick was planned to be part of his comedy, however, he decided to test his skills and see what he could do if he tried to rap as proficiently as possible.

The results were apparent, as now Rich Chigga has transcended his living meme status and has begun to mature into a legitimate artist. At only 17 years old, Brian has achieved an astronomical level of success without most of the infrastructure once necessary for such a rise. The only thing propelling Brian was his own initiative and the help of the previously mentioned 88rising.

But what is 88rising? It turns out 88rising is a promotional company who work specifically to promote Asian artists. Korean rapper Keith Ape also works with 88rising. In fact, he has featured alongside Rich Chigga and XXXTentacion on a track about a month ago. This gives us a peek into how Rich Chigga received his initial spur of success. We know the song and video were likely produced by Brian and his friends in Jakarta, however, the surrounding narrative and his massive exposure made possible by 88rising.

While the United States still seems to be the hub for popular music, we are beginning to see people from other cultures throw their hats into the ring too. 88rising pushing progressive music by Asian creators is a noble venture into decentralizing popular music and music culture. Rich Chigga represents a new kind of up and coming talent, one that blowing up on an international scale. While the model hasn’t completely changed, the internet has enabled artists to skip a few rungs on the ladder. Initial local success is critical; Brian would have been unable to take that first leap without support from people in Jakarta. That being said, once that success has been realized, it’s now easier than ever to spring oneself onto the international stage.

Fucking Eh – Tyler Reviews: Kanye of the Stone Age

Written by Tyler McLaurin

Kanye of the Stone age is a mash-up album by ToTom which combines the rap stylings of Kanye West with the riff driven instrumentals of Queens of the Stone Age. The album features mashups such as “Jesus Walks with the Flow”, No One Knows King Crimson’s Power” or “Runaway Into the Fade”. While there are a few misfires, many of these tracks come out sounding very cohesive, and ultimately complement each other very well. The rock instrumentals imbue Kanye’s lyrics with fire and passion, and elevate the energy levels of his performances. This is especially apparent on tracks like “Black Skinhead Does it Again”, where Kanye’s increases in pitch and excitement is supported by growling guitar riffs and thundering drums. Other tracks take a more subdued approach, but ultimately work out such as “Make it Wit Barry Bonds”. This song uses the jazzy and dare I say romantic instrumental of Make it Wit Chu with the braggadocios lyrics of Barry Bonds, which creates a very smooth listening experience.

“The only track that flat out doesn’t work is “Tree Digger”, which only turned me off because of the c-constant skipping through Kanye’s v-verse.”

I find the main value of this mashup as a hip hop fan is the way they reinvigorate the Queens of the Stone Age instrumentals. While Kanye’s passion and hater hating work tremendously well over these rock driven instrumentals, I was more surprised by how well the Queens sounded as rap beats. I began to suspect this after I heard Berzerk and Survival by Eminem, but guitar driven rock and rap flows are actually a good match. As much as I am a Queens fan, I found myself enjoying Kanye’s raps more than Josh Homme’s moaning falsetto. The only track that flat out doesn’t work is “Tree Digger”, which only turned me off because of the c-constant skipping through Kanye’s v-verse. That being said, when it works it works. The track “Better it Giveth” is a great example of this. The instrumental features a relentless rapid fire guitar riff, giving the track an energy and pace that wasn’t part of the original song. The verses work the same way, replaces the floating vocals with rapid fire flows, which manage to keep up with energy of the guitars. The way the verses roll into the hook is so good, it almost seems intentional.

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